Room for Improvement

Feb. 17, 2006
Even when things are going great, its important to know whats going on.

Last fall at an industry event a friendly man noticed my name tag and observed that it must be a great time to be editing a metalcasting industry trade publication. After all, he reasoned, things are going well for firms in the industry ... that must mean more readers.

Well, it is a good time for us and we’re grateful for the opportunity to do what we do, but for all his enthusiasm and good wishes I had to explain to him that it’s not that simple.

Here’s a different example that may mean more to you: in the most recent figures available, the overall U.S. trade deficit in goods and services fell from its all-time high of $68.1 billion in October 2005 to $64.2 billion in November 2005, a fall of 5.73%. That’s a great development, but the trade deficit is still the third highest ever recorded.

Digging a bit deeper, we discover that the U.S. trade deficit in manufacturing fell to $54.36 billion (-5.25%). U.S. manufacturing imports fell by to $113.774 billion (-3.08%), but U.S. manufacturing exports also slipped to $59.42 billion. Through November 2005, the U.S. manufacturing export total of $625 billion represents a 9.65% increase from comparable 2004 levels. However, 2005 manufacturing import levels are 9.78% ahead of similar 2004 total, and so the 2005 year-to-date manufacturing trade deficit of $554

billion is 9.92% higher than the 11-month 2004 level.

Here’s the point: Even when things are going great, it’s worth the effort to look a little deeper for a clearer idea of what’s going on. There’s always something that might be improved.

Things have been improving for metalcasters in the past year, but it’s still possible to see how they could be better. That was stressed by the North American Die Casting Assn. in its 2005 State of the Industry report: “diecasters must “develop innovative solutions ... to remain profitable,” they state.

And we take a similar approach with this issue. Looking at one metalcasting process at a time, we invited experts to offer insights on the relevant concerns, developments, and trends. We set no rules, but we asked them to outline the most important developmental, technical, or operational issues they see on those subjects. We want to focus on emerging ideas, to start discussions, not settle them.

Our hope is that we can get readers thinking about the processes most important to them and their business, and perhaps to improve them. Or, at the least, to encourage them to look a little more closely at the things they’re doing, if only to re-check their assumptions.

About the Author

Robert Brooks | Content Director

Robert Brooks has been a business-to-business reporter, writer, editor, and columnist for more than 20 years, specializing in the primary metal and basic manufacturing industries. His work has covered a wide range of topics, including process technology, resource development, material selection, product design, workforce development, and industrial market strategies, among others. Currently, he specializes in subjects related to metal component and product design, development, and manufacturing — including castings, forgings, machined parts, and fabrications.

Brooks is a graduate of Kenyon College (B.A. English, Political Science) and Emory University (M.A. English.)